Removing the Rose Colored Glasses

When selling or buying, having a clear vision is critical. Sellers must go through the emotional process of letting go before they can view their home through the buyer's eyes.

It’s time to sell your house. The kids are married and have their own homes, the neighbors you loved and shared the vegetable garden with have long since moved away, and you retired from your job a half dozen years ago. You’ve always loved your home.  As you declutter, pack, clean and get ready to put the house on the market, you remember all of the reasons why you first bought it, why you loved it then and perhaps still do.

As a normal part of the moving process, you begin to replay in your mind, all of the significant life events that took place there; your first anniversary, the kids’ birthday parties, the neighborhood BBQs ... It’s truly an emotional process and one that takes time.  It’s not just a house, but the place where you created lasting memories that you will carry with you to your next home.

Eventually, you come to the conclusion that it is time to go, in fact, you might even question why it took so long. The second part of the moving process requires taking a realistic look at your house, getting an clear and objective picture of things from the potential buyer’s perspective, through  a magnifying glass or even a microscope.  

Today, a buyer's home inspector can be equipped with more high tech gadgets than you can imagine, tools for detecting moisture and mold, radon, lead paint, asbestos, and who knows, maybe even kryptonite!

Your recent roof, the 2005 furnace, the recent repairs to the deck & porch, and the fresh coat of paint are all good things. The annual pest maintenance plan and the wall AC you replaced in 1998, the sump pump installed after the flood of 2007 and the rose bush that blooms every year just before Memorial Day, are all a benefit to you as the homeowner and perhaps to the potential buyer. A plus? yes, but  “maintenance” is NOT an upgrade.

Taking care of your home and keeping it from falling into a state of disrepair protects your investment and maybe your equity, while providing a safe, happy and healthy environment for your family but does not equate to a family room addition, a newly finished basement, a stylish new kitchen or master bedroom suite.  

The buyer doesn’t know or care about how many trees you had to remove to put up the fence or how many you had to plant to block out the noise from the street.

Nor does your buyer receive the emotional value of your home, beautifully gift wrapped as a house warming present. They come with their very own set of hopes and dreams.

During the boom, house prices soared and sellers had less incentive to fuss and fix. Limited supply & high demand allowed the sellers' standards to slip. Buyers entered into bidding wars for homes that were not in great condition.

In more recent years, expectations along with sale prices, have come to be more realistic. Buyers and sellers now need to recognize the difference between a repair, an update, and an upgrade. 

Wise sellers, who properly maintained their home on an ongoing basis, need to spend less time and money to prepare their house for market, when they decide to sell. They are ready to move any time.  

Those who don’t, may have to spend thousands of dollars to remedy the “deferred maintenance” just to bring the house up to a minimum standard for the market, or just accept that their house will be classified as “distressed “ and be prepared  to compete with the typical bank-owned or short sale properties which results in a significantly lower sales price.

While a seller may have difficulty seeing their home objectively, there are many instances where buyers may have to remove their Gucci sunglasses and take an honest look at what they can buy for their money in a price range they can truly afford.  A well cared for, meticulously maintained home may provide the perfect foundation for creating your dream home. Don’t overlook great “potential." If the location is great, the structure secure, the heat, plumbing and electrical updated or declared safe by a licensed professional you may have stumbled upon a hidden gem.  When buying a fixer-upper however, it is crucial to see the house clearly and not let your imagination and an overdose of HGTV fool you into thinking you can transform it into your dream house in one day with a mini-makeover. Seek advice from experienced people, get estimates from reputable contractors, consider inspections and hire industry professionals whenever possible.

Perry Lowell Bent June 26, 2011 at 11:57 AM
Good article, Donna. I think emotional ties certainly do figure into things. Now, what about instances when the realtor may be unable to see the value of a unique property? -Perry-
The listing and sale of a unique property offers challenges not only for the seller but for the Realtor and the buyer as well. . Unique properties generally lack comparable sales to help with pricing. The value of a unique property is determined first by it's appeal to the unique buyer so the Realtor has to find a way to market the property to appeal to the largest pool of buyers who might be interested in the property because of its unique qualities, be it the style of the home, the unusual lot, acreage, the location, commercial or expansion possibilities..if a buyer does come along who can appreciate the property's uniqueness, all is well if the buyer has a boat load of cash and is eager and willing to buy it outright, no contigencies. The challenges arise when the buyer needs to finance the property.Unique properties are difficult to appraise. Any lender will try to find a comparable sale to justify the purchase price to protect themeselves, and the buyer from overpaying for the property. Listing a unique property may require a longer listing period and above average marketing costs for the Realtor. For this reason, the listing of a unique property may require a unique marketing approach and a unique listing contract :) Let's get together and talk more about your unique property!
Ashley Soto July 11, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Great article, I love you're column! I'm a home stager and one of my biggest challenges is helping homeowners emotionally detach themselves from their house enough to make the changes needed to get them the sale they want. I just wrote a blog post on a similar topic explaining why whether you're selling now, in a year, or in the very distant future, maintaining your home and planning for needed updates will save you a boatload of time (and money!) when it does come time to sell. You can check it out at http://transformingdecor.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/home-staging-isnt-just-for-selling-why-you-should-start-staging-now-whether-youre-selling-or-not/. I hope you find it helpful!


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